The Star Thrower

At a recent event, two United Way donors were having a discussion on how they felt about issues facing Winnipeg.

The first – a relatively new donor to United Way – expressed frustration at how big and perhaps insurmountable some of the issues felt – like poverty and crime.

The other – a longtime United Way donor – smiled in agreement, then went on to recall a story she’d first heard as a young woman.

She said that whenever she felt overwhelmed, she’d be reminded of this story, and the indisputable truth that one person can make a difference, no matter how large the problem.

As it turns out, the story she shared is adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley, and is worth sharing:

Everyone can make a difference to someone.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young boy, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The boy was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young boy replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile! Moreover, there are countless beaches just like this one all up and down the coast. What you’re doing will not make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”